It's a tale of two cities in regards to infrastructure investment. Right here in Jefferson City, we see a stark example of why legislators made a mistake when they failed to act on important infrastructure legislation this session.
Missouri American Water Company had one of their water mains break under Dix Road on May 19, which caused thousands of customers to lose water pressure and a disruption for motorists. The break was attributed to aging pipes and metal fatigue. But in St. Louis, the very same water utility just received approval to recover $52 million (just over a dollar a month for the residential customer) for facilities upgrades completed in the past year.
What's the difference? In St. Louis, the water utility is authorized to utilize ISRS cost recovery; but that's not the case for the rest of Missouri. The Legislature prevented the rest of the state from taking advantage of this important investment tool by not approving an expansion of the water surcharge (ISRS).
Let's hope it doesn't take hundreds of water line breaks and declining electric reliability to make legislators see the value of reliable infrastructure. Instead of waiting for utility infrastructure to fail, we should authorize utilities to make the needed investments. At the same time, those utilities create jobs and improve reliability.
Despite being elected on the promise of creating jobs, many of our legislators can't seem to see this simple truth - you invest in your infrastructure before it reaches a failing point. So in the session that recently ended, legislators failed to extend ISRS to water utilities statewide. On top of that, they did not vote on a common sense measure that would also allow the state's electric utilities to upgrade facilities in order to attract new industry.
When they come back in 2014, the General Assembly needs to set a common sense energy policy that's right for Missouri. They need to think ahead and make sure our infrastructure can meet our economic needs.